When we arrived at the farm, the first thing the volunteer showed us was the compost toilet: essentially a hand-crafted porta-potty that gives a nice return despite 6 months of crap investments (ba-zing!). I took a deep breath. “Okay,” I thought, “this is what adventure looks like. Embrace it.” Using the compost toilet, actually, is not really that uncomfortable. Sit down, relax, enjoy the view (see below), complete your negotiations, sprinkle in some sawdust (kind of like fairy dust that turns poop into mulch), and put the lid back on. (Pro Tip: at night, do not shine your headlamp in the hole. Las cucarachas consider it rude.)
The only problem, for me at least, is that it’s 50 yards from where I sleep, and I am a person who must use the bathroom at least once a night, especially when it’s inconvenient. Getting to the compost toilet at night entails leaving the sanctuary of the mosquito net, walking down 2 sections of steep stairs, putting on my sandals with pebbles stuck to my feet, walking uphill on slippery grass (while watching warily for venomous vipers), having a pee, and then doing it all in reverse. The thought of doing this once a night for the next six weeks was…anxiety inducing. Then, while bravely trying it the first night, I saw a Golden Orb Weaver in the leaves right in front of the toilet, about 8 inches from my feet. In the light of my headlamp it looked perturbed. Needless to say, this first attempt inspired me to find an alternative.
I brought on this trip the Freshette, which has turned out to be a miracle molded from hard plastic, and something that no adventurous lady should travel without. At first, I thought I’d be able to use it to go in the bushes near the volunteer lodge, but doing so would still require leaving Mosquito-Net Sanctuary, using the stairs, and stepping on pebbles (and, for some reason, if I think people might see me I get gun-shy – how do the gentlemen do it?). As a problem solver extraordinaire, I considered my options:
1) Cease consuming all liquids, for the next 6 weeks. Perhaps, I thought, like the air plants, I could absorb by osmosis water from the humid tropical atmosphere. In reality, though, this is just a good way to die miserably in the jungle.
2) Locate a fitting receptacle and pee in a bottle.
I opted quickly for #2. This being the first night at the farm and, for some reason, finding it necessary to pee immediately upon returning from the horror show at the compost toilet, I turned to the only object at my disposal…
The next day, I sought another solution. (Fortunately, we brought bleach – thanks Mom! – and my water bottle is again usable.) In the recycling, I found a 12-oz vodka bottle. Surely this was large enough? Nay – I was forced to empty it mid-stream that night, and the search continued the next day. That afternoon, another volunteer brought to dinner a 3-liter bottle of Fresca that she had purchased at a nearby town (two hours away). I eyed it greedily and asked, nonchalantly, “Say, would you mind giving me that Fresca bottle when you’re finished with it?” Of course she had to ask why, but all I could come up with was, “I need it for…something…” Nonplussed, she very kindly found something else in which to put the Fresca and gave me the bottle. My glee overcame me and I held the bottle against my cheek, stroking it while whispering, “My precious…”.
So, now I have my own makeshift bed-side pee bottle, and have discovered a new principle:
(and unreasonable happiness)
It really is the simple things in life. With this small victory, I have no doubt that the next 6 weeks will flow much more smoothly.
Stay tuned for more detailed description of where we’re staying and what we’re up to.